Kodi Nikorima ensured New Zealand will not head home winless after inspiring comprehensive third test win over England.
The Kiwi scrum-half created three tries and scored one himself as the Kiwis went some way to making amends for close defeats in Hull and Liverpool.
Wayne Bennett’s England had been fully in the contest shortly before half-time when they trailed just 0-6 to a Ken Maumalo try.
But quick-fire efforts to Isaac Liu and Nikorima suddenly made it 18-0 at the break, and the home side visibly tired after the restart, conceding further tries to Maumalo, Jesse Bromwich and Joseph Tapine.
Here are five talking points from the match.
1. Kiwis bite back
England’s outstanding opening two wins should not have hidden the fact that this is a quality New Zealand team, and one that beat world champions Australia only last month.
As such, there was always the potential for a Kiwi backlash, and it came in style in Leeds.
There was again little between the two sides for the opening half hour, with England having two tries disallowed and trailing just 0-6.
But the tourists blew them away with three tries either side of half-time, providing a clinical cutting edge that helped make last year’s World Cup disaster a fading memory.
With the talent in their side and Maguire at the helm, they will present a formidable challenge for the reformed Lions next autumn.
2. England still in credit
Wins in Hull and Liverpool meant that England had already secured a series win winners before kick-off at Elland Road.
Given the number of players missing from last year’s World Cup final side – which totalled 10 in Leeds, plus the again injured skipper Sean O’Loughlin – it’s an achievement that should not be underestimated.
Of course Wayne Bennett’s men would have liked to have finished the campaign on the perfect high, but when you throw the mid-season test against New Zealand in Denver in, they have beaten the Kiwis three times in four matches this year.
They are moving in the right direction ahead of the ultimate goal of the 2021 World Cup.
3. Slick Kodi shines again
Whenever New Zealand visit these shores, most eyes naturally gravitate to former Golden Boot winner Shaun Johnson, such has been his impact in games against England in the past.
But in this series it’s his half-back partner Kodi Nikorima that has shone the brightest.
Nikorima – who made his international debut against England in the 2015 series and plays under Bennett at Brisbane – has been a creative force throughout.
His willingness to take the ball to the line and ability to put others in holes has been a key feature of the Kiwi attack.
He also scored one of the tries of the series when combining superbly with Johnson for a decisive try just before half-time.
4. England’s next generation
A major positive of the autumn internationals has been the emergence of a host of new stars for England.
Golden Boot winner Tommy Makinson, centre Oliver Gildart, prop Luke Thompson and utility Jake Connor have all made their international debuts in 2018, and look well suited to this level.
It will provide England with a depth of selection often missing in the national side over the next few years.
Absent through injury for this series was Sam Burgess, Kallum Watkins, Ryan Hall, Alex Walmsley, Ben Currie and Luke Gale among others – and they know they now face a battle to regain their shirts.
5. Lest we forget
With the game taking place on the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, the RFL and England deserve considerable credit for their work in marking the event.
From taking Bennett’s squad to memorial sites in France and Belgium last month, to wearing a special poppy-themed shirt at Elland Road, the sport has paid its respects with perfect tone.
The social media output from the governing body has been outstanding, including a moving video with captain James Graham, and each of the squad members reading out the names of the 69 Northern Union players that made the ultimate sacrifice in World War One, something that was played on the big screen in Leeds.
On the field, the two teams and match officials stood shoulder-to-shoulder, arm-in-arm, for the minute’s silence.
As Graham poignantly noted: “I really don’t like to compare sport with war, it’s just different – there’s a different price to be paid.
“We go hard for 80 minutes, train hard and have camaraderie and all that, but we have it easy – it’s not like what they went through.”
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